Cathal Coughlan: Songs of Co-Aklan review – The art of great songwriting

The former Microdisney frontman’s new collection reminds you just how good he is

Songs of Co-Aklan
    
Artist: Cathal Coughlan
Genre: Alternative
Label: Dimple Discs

When he sounded the death knell for Microdisney a couple of years ago – in the wake of the justified celebrations for that band's contribution to, dare we say it, pop music – Cathal Coughlan told this writer that a number of things steadfastly mattered to him. "One is the art song," he said. "Whether it's German theatre, Sinatra, Tin Pan Alley, Northern Soul or discordant, pernickety song composition from the late 20th century, those are the things I care about."

And so it proves with Coughlan’s sixth album, his solo follow-up to 2010’s Rancho Tetrahedron. Although centred on what sounds like a characteristic meta-futuristic caper (“Any self-styled Pacific nation located in the northern Atlantic needs its corporate pig-Latin/bog-Frankish nomenclature”, runs part of the album title PR “explainer”), the songs, as per usual, detail what’s really going on. Of course, society’s to blame, guv’nor, but so, too, are the layers of deceit, greed and corruption that infiltrate from the top down.

The lyrics are uniformly excellent (“I’m with the passed-out dog, a chain around my fist, an engine throbs beyond this wall and headlamps light the mist,” he sings on Passed-Out Dog) and run a parallel race with the songs.

From the aggrieved Northern Soul of the title track to the dramaturgical lilt of The Lobster’s Dream, Coughlan reminds you again and again just how good he is. Bravo.

Tony Clayton-Lea

Tony Clayton-Lea

Tony Clayton-Lea is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in popular culture